The Wisdom of Grief: 3 Years Later

Three years now since our mother so suddenly departed this earthly realm.

These days my role is clear. Carrying the wisdom of that challenging and deep experience forward, as I continue to walk The Path, refining the defined. Peeling the layers back. Going deeper. Becoming more expansive. What else is there to do really?

And so, I see (and have been told) that I am my soon-to-be 81-year-old father’s gatekeeper. And I fully and wholeheartedly accept this responsibility. In that surrendered way.

My father and I have conversations about how important state of mind and speech is at the time of death. Both of which should be at ease: calm, centred, clear, focused, no fear. Whatever that looks like, ask for it from your loved ones, The Divine — and make it happen, I say. However you get there: nature, meditation, chanting, visualization, energy work, bodywork, creative expressions, prayer, etc. – whatever it Is, request it. Intend it.

“But it really depends on how you leave this world,” my father says to me.

With mom and dad on their 46th wedding anniversary – the last time I saw my mother (November 2014).

“Dad,” I answer, “Look at the way mom left. She had a massive brain aneurysm on-the-spot with no previous signs of sickness, and she still managed to call out to the Divine Mother repeatedly as she hit the floor to her seeming death…And look at the example of Mahatma Gandhi, he was shot point blank a couple of times, and still had time to chant ‘Ram,’ before he collapsed to his apparent death.”

“That’s true…” my father’s voice trails off.

“Dad,” I continue. “Our whole lives we are preparing for our moment of death. Speech and state of mind are so key and dependent in terms of what happens next. We must leave in a peaceful and sacred way. If our daily/moment-to-moment practice in life is strong and instilled in us, it will be the most natural act to chant ourselves out at the time of death/call out to the Divine in whatever form is true for us — no matter what form we leave by.”

“Yes,” he says quietly, softly.

I stress any chant to Shiva at the time of exit from the body is most auspicious since he is the destroyer and creator in my father’s tradition (Vedic/Yogic/Hindu). One of the most auspicious being the one my father asked me to lead when we chanted our mother out. That moment when they informed us that she would never wake up. When we all gathered around her bed in the ICU and pulled the plug, witnessing her take her last breath: OM NAMAH SHIVAYA OM TAT SAT, we chanted for the 25 minutes it took for her to reach her final breath.

Our mother’s sudden death has brought my siblings and I (even) closer to our dear father. Precious times these are. Indeed. Every moment with him. Every conversation. Every connection. O Divine Mother!

thumb_me close up on arunachala_1024
On Arunachala in South India, 2017.

Expanding Support

This role of support extends to supporting the grieving and the dying within my global community. And it’s been happening in quite a concentrated way especially in the past year with friends and family. It’s happening one-to-one mainly. Me being someone they feel truly knows the process and can relate to them. Whether it’s a parent dying, or a question about how to support a friend’s partner’s sudden death. Or how to honour a death anniversary. Or how to support the parent on their death bed, or that one who is about to go any day during an auspicious time.

Death Training

I took a death course in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition last autumn (“How to Enjoy Death” is what it was called) in the western Himalayas of India, the land of my roots. Indeed, it’s all a part of this great unfolding. Coming together with those who also feel drawn to supporting the dying, as well as their own exit from the body one fine day. If I can learn about the death process in different traditions that resonate, then I feel I am even more prepared to support those who approach me for insight. Self-study is also playing out in me on this journey of the death process. And a Vedic death course with one of my Indian teachers is coming soon too. And there is a longer training coming as well, I see it on the horizon. As I flow on The Path, continuously going deeper, peeling the layers back, becoming more expansive. What else is there to do really?

Deepening into Divine Mother

My mother’s Durga murti – the deity my mother and her mother dedicated their life-long practice to. JAI MA.

Another layer of this deepening process since my mother’s exit, is supporting my own journey into the further depths of my relationship to Divine Mother. Presently I am drawing inspiration from Rama Krishna and his intense devotion to The Divine Mother – including through his extraordinary worship and devotion of his wife (known as the Holy Mother: Sarada), as an embodiment of the highest form of the Sacred Divine Feminine.

One more layer of this further unfolding into the Divine Mother is beginning a maha siddhi mantra on this month’s new moon, which was also the day before the present Navratri — the nine sacred days honouring the Sacred Divine Feminine in all her Shakti forms. This practice refers to chanting 125,000 repetitions of a mantra to honour, commune, pray and express gratitude to a specific form of Shakti. Consequently, the power of the mantra becomes instilled in oneself. So that we may walk with it, and have it infuse and inform our lives, and the lives of those around us — for the greater good of the Whole. To offer, share and celebrate Divinity and the Truth. I am grateful to have the support of eight sisters from around the world for this most auspicious and dedicated practice. Our convergence in committing to this profound sadhana together, inspires me and gives me strength and courage to maintain the drishti, the pratyahara — of this Tantric practice. (We chant a round of 108 twice a day, morning and evening. It will take one year and seven months to complete this practice. The length of our chant varies, since some of us will take 10 minutes for a one-line mantra, while others may be working with a mantra that is perhaps five lines and require 45 minutes to chant one round of 108.)

Carrying on the Lineage of My Foremothers

I also observe that I am going deeper and deeper into the Priestess role: Vedic Priestess, says one of my guides. This inheritance from my foremothers. It seems to be forming in supporting women, healing, and union these days — amid working with the moon cycles and the general biodynamic rhythm of Mother Earth.

These are the gifts of my mother upon her departure from this worldly realm. And I thank her daily, several times a day. This Divine Mother, who has become my Mother. Just like when my mother’s mother left her body seven years before her, on the very same auspicious Navratri day (the third day, culmination of Durga), and my own mother went deeper into her connection with The Divine Mother. I am

mom and naniji
Mom and her mother some time between 2000 – 2005.

walking the path of my foremothers, carrying on the lineage of their good work. It is my greatest responsibility, and one that I am totally and happily accountable to. What else is there to do really? Save, the good work to offer/share/celebrate with the Whole. So that we may truly know our Divinity and our True Nature, in all moments. And truly embody this knowing, our greatest support as we navigate the persistent flux of pleasure and pain amid this illusory realm known as “world.”

After all…“We are here to walk each other home” ~ Ram Dass.

“The best way to honour your mother is to serve God[dess],” said the priest, who led the fire ceremony to our ancestors on the 11th day after my mother’s sudden exit. My answer: a stream of deeply knowing tears trickling down my face.

Some Offerings on Grief…

  • It changes, becomes different — and grows subtler over time. Ebbs and flows, yet never goes away – even if after some time, we seem to not remember our loved one “regularly.” The grief is much subtler than that, rising up unexpectedly from some cellular plane. And it is most often pronounced at certain times like death anniversaries, birthdays or mother’s/father’s day (or the like). Or a certain memory or flashback that transpires through a specific action/thought/interaction.
  • Make space for grief in all its myriad of emotions. Feel it, acknowledge it, observe it unfolding in you, honour your process. Slow and steady. Day by day, breath by breath.
  • Shed tears, don’t hold it in.
  • Grief does not have a timeline.
  • You don’t have to be strong.
  • It’s ok to feel shock, disbelief, sadness, guilt, anger, fear.
  • You may feel fatigue, insomnia, heart-palpitations, anxiety, loss of appetite.
  • Don’t let anyone tell you how to feel, and don’t tell yourself how to feel either.
  • Look after your health. Try to go for a walk, eat healthy, get some sunshine, bodywork, etc.
  • Practice self care/self love: be kind and gentle with yourself.
  • This is not the time to turn to substances to numb the pain. It will only lift your mood temporarily. Go deeper.
  • Get quiet, immerse in Mother Nature, sit in front of your altar (or some other form that is deeply sacred to you).
  • Write, paint, sing, chant, dance – whatever creative expression supports an outlet for you to move energy. When you’re ready. There is no timeline here.
  • Meditate and pray.
  • Ask for help: with groceries and meals; holding space for you just to be; longer hugs (I did); seek out those who have been through a similar loss that you can deeply relate to. Reach out to family, friends, a support group, your spiritual practice, and/or a grief counsellor.
  • Following the death of a loved one, if it resonates you may set up an altar dedicated to them with their picture, some flowers, candle, incense, and whatever else emanates their spirit. In many traditions the first 40 days they are close by. You can communicate any last sentiments to them, thank them, and give them permission to move on. Specifically, that you (and the family) are ok and they can now go on. Often, they need to hear this as they may feel some attachment to grieving loved ones.
  • Whatever you do, don’t throw yourself into something that is a form of escape/distraction (work/projects, etc.), as the grief will harden inside/become suppressed, and show up in another form later, which may very well be quite uncomfortable. The time is NOW. Truly honour your process as it is happening.
  • Remember, you are so loved. Always supported by the Grace of the Great Goddess. Never a moment not. Take refuge in this knowing. JAI MA.

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